Our last 4 nights in Alaska were spent in the town of Skagway which is located at the southern end of the Klondike Hwy on the Taiya Inlet of the Lynn Canal. It is a small gold rush era town that enjoys the status of being a popular stop for cruise ships bringing in almost a million tourists each year. Since our campground sat along the harbor, we believe that statistic! As soon as one ship pulls out another pulls in – busy, busy, busy! It is also the northernmost stop for the Alaska Marine Ferry system that provides transportation all the way down the coast to Seattle.
Before I tell you about our stay in this cute little town, I just want to mention that the drive to Skagway on the South Klondike highway was another beautiful journey. Within 25 miles from the turn off the Alcan Highway, in the Yukon Territory, you come across the lovely Emerald Lake reflecting all the colors of the rainbow due to the sediment in the water.
A little further down you see the Carcross Desert which is the remnant of a long gone glacial lake and considered the smallest desert in the world (no room in turnout to pull over for picture). More large lakes with islands, rocky topography and White Pass Summit await as you cross into British Columbia.
Once you have descended the pass (which was long and had our brakes smelling) you cross over the border into Alaska at sea level and are only 4 miles from Skagway.
Now, back to what we did in Skagway. Our tour had a flurry of activities planned for this stay that included an all-day venture into Juneau (boat there and bus around town), a ½ day train ride up to White Pass, a dinner at one of the harbor side restaurants and a theater/casino night reminiscent of the gold rush days. We had one free day to explore Skagway on our own. Phew, it was a whirlwind!
We boarded the catamaran style boat to Juneau at 8:00 am for the 90 mile trek down the Lynn Canal to this city only accessed by sea or air. The weather was warm and sunny which in these parts is evidently quite unusual. In fact, the locals use the name “cloud failure” for these rare days! We surely weren’t complaining! Mountains down to the sea, eagles on the lookout for salmon, dall porpoises and even a whale or two made for an exciting trip.
Arriving in Juneau around noon we grabbed a bite of lunch before exploring this capitol city’s downtown.
After a few hours of shopping and cruise ship and sea plane watching, we boarded a bus that took us to the Mendenhall Glacier which is a must see if you are in the area.
Once done there, we headed back to the boat for the trip back to Skagway (enjoying more lovely scenes along the way).
We arrived in port just as the sun was dipping below the mountains – a very long day!
The next morning Art and Caryn were up and out by 8:30 to board the train to the White Pass Summit. I opted out of this trip to get caught up on my photos, do a little housekeeping AND just to have a breather from getting up and hurrying out! They enjoyed the morning ride to the summit and back on a diesel locomotive on tracks that were first laid in 1900 and follows the route many ‘gold rushers’ followed to avoid the Chilkoot Pass. The route climbs from sea level to 3,000 feet in just 20 miles and winds around mountainsides, through tunnels and over trestle spanned gorges. It was designated an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1994 – an honor it shares with the likes of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty!
Our free time in Skagway was spent exploring the downtown shopping area, enjoying fish and chips for lunch and just relaxing in the RV.
We enjoyed our time in this lovely little town in a very lovely setting. It is hard to believe that from here we leave Alaska behind and really start making tracks for the Lower 48. We will have one more dip back into Alaska to view bears in Hyder, but that’s another story for another day!